Further setback in long-awaited move to fill top garda jobs
A long-awaited move by the Government to fill two top garda jobs has met another setback.
An announcement on appointing the new deputy garda commissioners had been expected in recent weeks.
But an appeal by one of the candidates, who failed to secure a spot in the final interviews, has led to the postponement of that decision.
One of the posts has been vacant for almost two years.
The vacancy stemmed from the retirement of Nacie Rice as deputy commissioner in May 2013.
The second job arose from the official appointment of Nóirín O'Sullivan as garda commissioner last November, following the forced departure of Martin Callinan the previous March.
The failure to fill two out of the three top jobs in the force has led to growing concerns in all ranks, particularly when the organisation is undergoing its biggest overhaul since foundation and as there are serious gaps in the upper echelons.
Last January, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald told the Irish Independent that she viewed the strengthening of senior national management of the force as critical to the delivery of garda reforms.
One of the new deputies will be responsible for garda operations while the other will take charge of professional standards, governance and accountability.
Over the past year, those responsibilities have been under the control of two assistant commissioners, John Twomey and Dónall Ó Cualáin, who have been "acting" as deputies.
Both of them made the final shortlist of three for promotion, following the holding for the first time of an open competition. The competition was thrown open to candidates from outside the force and from outside the jurisdiction.
But candidates for the final interviews were all gardaí. The third candidate is Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny, who is currently in charge of the northern region.
Another assistant commissioner, who did not reach the last three, has lodged an appeal against the process used and this will have to be determined before a decision on promotion can be made.
The interviews were carried out by an independent board.
In theory, the commissioner's senior management team should include 12 assistant commissioners. But this has not been the case for several years.
Their ranks were further depleted by the decision of one of the most experienced crime fighters in the force, Tony Quilter, to retire last December at the age of 54 and take up a policing post overseas.
All of the remaining assistants are currently "doubling up" in their responsibilities to make up for the shortfall in numbers in the top ranks.
It is not yet clear when a competition to fill the gaps at that rank will be held and how many of the vacancies there will be included in the promotion race.